Herb Gardner is the author who launched A Thousand Clowns which was first a play, then a movie. And while the film has been mostly forgotten, the play is one of those that is pretty much evergreen, fun to do, fun to see, and fun to talk about. It has the distinction of opening Berkshire Theatre Group’s Fitzpatrick Main Stage on July 21 at 8pm. Previews begin July 16 at 8pm and closing is on July 28, 2012.
Turns out it is a must-see for my colleague Gail Burns, and myself.
That’s because the main character just happens to have the name of Murray Burns – and even better, he’s a bit eccentric. During the play he expounds on his nonconformist worldview: that a person must fight at all costs to retain a sense of aliveness. Now that makes him more interesting don’t you think? There’s also a young boy named Nick who lives with Uncle Murray, subject to the watchful eye of social worker types who insist he conform to society in order to keep custody of the boy. Little things, you know, like keeping a regular job.
But when Uncle Murray walks off his job as a joke writer for “Chuckles the Chipmunk,” it’s time for “the system,” to make life “normal.” When social worker, Sandra Markowitz, is thrown into the mix, her world is turned upside down, when the strength of Nick and Murray’s love for each other begins to outweigh the rules. As Nick and Murray find a way to stay together, the path becomes filled with laughter, warmth, sweetness and inspired madness. This Tony nominated play is one of Broadway’s most beloved. In 1965 the play was developed into a film which featured Jason Robards as Murray Burns and Martin Balsam in an Oscar winning role as his brother, Arnold. That same year, Herb Gardner won the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Comedy for this endearing and hilarious play.